Birds of a Feather
Mikala closed her eyes and rested a moment. She had done it. Down both flights of steps from her room on the third floor. She caught her breath and moved slowly away from the rail. She looked around trying to remember what was down on the first floor. She walked stiffly through the entry way and then remembered there was a sitting room behind the stairs. She knew what was that way. She headed the other way and soon found herself in a huge library. She looked up to realize it was open up all three stories.
She looked around marveling at all the actual books. She moved to a bookcase and took one down. She opened it and closed her eyes just enjoying the smell of the leather and paper.
Mikala closed the book and wandered around for while just reveling in the feel of being close to so many books. The smell made her nose tingle. She smiled a little. She dreamt of books when she was young, but she never actually thought she would see so many in one place. She had a few books she kept at her apartment on Coruscant, but it was impractical to have many.
She walked slowly just reading the titles on the back of the books. She had read several of the ones in the section she walking through.
She puzzled over a few not recognizing the language on the spine. She was familiar with most of the trade languages. She had always seemed to have a gift with languages, but thinking back that could have been the Force. She shrugged and moved on.
She spied chairs over toward the high windows and decided to take a rest and look over the book she had picked up.
"Hello, Mikala." A voice greeted her as she reached the chairs.
She turned and clutched the book tightly to her chest. She stared at the woman with short blond hair. "Hello, Polena."
"Sit down before you fall over." Polly replied.
Mikala started to protest, but she stopped herself. Being stubborn didn't seem to be working with these people. She moved to the plush chair and worked to slowly ease herself into it. She squeezed her eyes shut as she finally got down and took a moment to settle herself.
"Much better than anything we had, or could even imagine on Ord Mantell, isn't it?"
She nodded. "I used to dream about a place like this, but not to extent of how grand this is."
Polly as sitting with her legs draped over one arm of the chair, a book in her lap. Her lightsaber hung over the front and there was a knife in her boot.
"Yes, it is grand, and its only one of many places the family owns. Welcome to Zoron." Polly answered.
"Thank you." Mikala sighed leaning back. She smiled a little. "You know, I think the last time I saw you I was running from you."
"Probably. You were something of a pest."
Mikala laughed. "Was I now?"
"And I was a loner. But that is ancient history here." Polly laid herbook on the table, swung her legs around and sat up.
"Things have changed, haven't they?" Mikala asked.
"Very much so." Polly answered. "I suspect we are both richer now than everyone either of us knew back then put together."
Mikala nodded and looked over at her. "Have you ever heard of Darkfire, the assassin?"
She gave her a small smile. "That's what I've been going by for the last few years."
"Than you've learned the lessens of the street very well. Your record is impressive, but I'd expect that from Tor's daughter."
Mikala smiled a little at the praise. "I've gotten by." She sighed deeply. "But I'm finding myself completely out of my depth here."
"Zoron is an entirely different league from Ord Mandell." Polly answered. "There are only two places in the Galaxy where you can learn more than you can here, Coruscant and Yaven. But I know how you feel." She continued. "I felt the same way when your father brought me here. I knew a few Force tricks. But your father understood how it works."
"I had never really given much thought to Force training before a few months ago." She closed her eyes. "I never though of looking for Father until a month ago." She shook her head.
"On Ord Mandell I didn't even know there was such a thing as the Force. I thought I was just a better fighter than everyone else."
Mikala smiled. "You were."
"Then one day your father came along. I couldn't lose him. Tricks that worked against the best bounty hunters on Ord, he saw though in an instant. Finally, he cornered me and offered to bring me here."
Mikala nodded slowly. "He found you and I hid from him."
"Big mistake on your part. I made one that should have been worse. I answered him with a thrown knife."
Mikala's eyes widen slightly. "Oh."
"It was a very good throw, right on target to the middle of his chest. Then it stopped half way, turned around and came back. He had it hover in front of my nose for a moment, then he dropped back in my boot." Polly tapped her boot knife. "That convinced me that I'd met someone I couldn't beat. So I joined him."
Mikala smiled. "Nice trick." She leaned her head back. "You always said you'd get off Ord Mandell."
"Yes I did. And here we both are."
Mikala nodded and then glanced to Polly's boot. "Where would be a good place around here to get a descent vibroshiv? Sandy confiscated mine."
"Do you want a basic military one, or do you what it costume made?" Polly asked.
"Basic would do for now, but I'd prefer something custom if I could get it."
"For basic, I'd go down to the armory on the second sublevel. It's over under the security house. For custom, I'll take you to a shop in town. Hand makes all kinds of blades."
Mikala nodded. "I'd appreciate that. I doubt Sandy is going to give me mine back."
"Why did she take it away from you?"
Mikala sighed and leaned her head back. "It was contaminated with a the Lexor poison."
"Nasty stuff." Polly observed.
Mikala nodded. "But effective."
"What do you think of your father's side of the family? They are very different from your mother's."
Mikala just shook her head. "There is no comparison." She looked over at Polly. "Did you ever know my Mother?"
"Only by sight and reputation. I really didn't pay her much attention. You mattered more on the street."
Mikala gave her a questioning look.
"Your mother was an addict, her word meant nothing and she wasn't around all that much. You were at least a normal person, or what passed for normal on Ord."
Mikala chuckled. "I guess so."
"Enough about the past. What are your plans now that you are here?"
She hugged the book tighter. "I don't know right now." She shook her head. "I just don't know. So much has changed. I've changed. The things I thought were important just aren't any more." She stared out the window. "I thought I had everything figured out and then it was all taken away, but then I found Father and everyone else--" she just shook her head lost for words.
"This place will do that to you." Polly stood up and started to pace. "I often envy your siblings. For them, this place has always been."
"I have learned much here. Your father has not only taught me the Force but given me a real education, from books." Polly waved her hand at the stacks around them. "That's a whole world of which I had not even dreamed before I arrived here. But the most important lesson I've learned is about loyalty."
Mikala nodded slowly and just watched her. "You're very lucky. I hid from Father when he found you." She shook her head. "I physically ran into him at one point and picked his pocket, but he found you and not me, because I hid." She leaned her head back closed her eyes a moment.
Polly stopped pacing. "You managed to pick his pocket? You must tell your siblings how you did it. Two years ago trying was all the rage around here. No one succeeded."
Mikala gave her a sad smile. "He must have been focused on finding you and I was hiding my Force signature. I didn't even realize it was the Dark Man until after I got away with his credstick and saw how big it was. The couple I was staying with took it from me when I got back to their apartment, but it was nice having it while it lasted."
"He never mentioned the pickpocket to me, but I doubt you took enough money to matter."
Mikala chuckled. "It was a Hutt's ransom to us. Corbin threatened to beat me to find out where I had gotten it. I told him I took it off a drunken gambler who had passed out in the street. He would have turned me in to Father looking for a bounty if I had told him I had taken it from 'The Dark Man'," she said.
Polly laughed. "And your father would have seen the Force in you and brought you here."
Mikala sighed deeply. "And my life would have been a whole lot easier."
"Much. But neither of you would know that you were his daughter, of course."
She shook her head. "We wouldn't. I didn't even have the ring then. That was in my grandmother's house still, what was left of it."
Mikala fished a chain from under her tunic and slipped it over her head. She held it out with her left hand.
Polly took the chain and examined it. "A signet, Stellas coat of arms. This would have raised all the right questions." Polly handed it back. "So close."
Mikala nodded. "My Mother stole it from him after they...met. My Mother gave it to me when I was small and told me it belonged to my Father, but then took it away in a rage and I thought she destroyed it. My Grandmother must have found it and hid it. I found it when I went back a few years ago to see if anything was left of her house. That was the last time I was on Ord Mandell."
"Can't be any other reason to go back." Polly mused.
Mikala slipped the chain back over her head and then tucked the ring back under her tunic. "I don't want to ever go back to the planet."
"Sooner or later it will be necessary to do business one or another of the Ord crime lords." Polly laughed. "But they can keep the place as far as I'm concerned."
Mikala sighed deeply. "Speaking of crime lords, Karella the Hutt is starting to be irritated with me. She's sent me three contracts and I keep turning them down and it looks like I will keep having to at least for now," she said, motion to her arm in the sling.
'Tell her you're out of business. She's only a Hutt." Poly replied. "If she becomes too much of a problem she can be your next contract."
Mikala smiled and shook her head. "She's been my biggest employer for that last few years. She could make things very...unpleasant for me and my people on Nar Shaadda."
"So move your operations. You're in no condition to be working right now. And remember she doesn't own you." Polly said.
She grimaced. "She did for a while. I got my loan to start up Darkfire Industries from her. She ended up with three times what I borrowed by the time I had she satisfied."
"She doesn't own you now. If she thinks she does we will disillusion her. She is a crime lord, not a Sith or Jedi."
Mikala nodded and dropped her eyes. "I keep looking for the catch here. People aren't this nice without wanting something in return."
"I hunted for that catch for three years. I never found it." She paused. "Just don't betray the family and you'll be all right."
"I won't," she said softly.
"The Hutts are not as strong as they appear. They cannot work together. We Sith can." Polly continued. "If Karella gives you trouble, we will teach her that lesson."
She smiled. "Thanks."
"Let's just hope it doesn't get that far. Zeruah's been putting her off for me right now and Xeven's been keeping the bills paid."
"Money, will not be an issue." Polly observed. "I've seen Reanna's books. We control more money than I can imagine."
"Reanna, Countess DeQuillas, she's Attiles, Kat's and Don's grandmother, and your great grand father's last Padawan." Polly explained. "She runs the business end of House Mathem's operations. I don't know how many corporations she controls. She lives in the second house to the left."
Mikala's eyes widened a bit and she exhaled softly. "Okay." She shook her head. "I bet you don't have to worry about her skimming off the top." She chuckled. "But if she did would it even matter?"
"Actually I think she is or at least used to." Polly explained. "When Koross, Baric, Aulin and Reanna arrived I believe they did skim a bit, to pay buy all this in the first place. Besides, Koross is a Corellian. Would you trust a Corellian who didn't line his pockets. Palpatine wouldn't. But the family can trust her."
Mikala nodded and settled back. "Maybe she could spare someone to go through my books. I know Xeven is making off with more than I've been able to actually track. I just haven't had the time to go through them as thoroughly as I'd like. He hasn't managed to touch the secured fund, but he's gotten his fingers into too much. Normally, I'd trust Zeruah to track it down, but she's got enough with her other duties and trying to track down some shipments that have gone missing recently and Xeven's Falleen. It's never seemed to bother me, but he can get to her."
"I'm sure she can. She keeps several top corporate law and accounting firms on retainer. But talk to her, I don't know the ins and outs of that stuff." Polly said.
Mikala sighed. "I just hope he isn't making off with everything while I'm here. I been away too long this time. I got...distracted when I started working with DuCruet and then--" she sighed. "I wasn't focused enough to really care for a while."
"I'm sure we'll be able to deal with him if he goes to far."
She nodded. "He is a good accountant."
"So are Reanna's accountants. How many assistants does he have? I'm sure Reanna can arrange to outnumber him." Polly pointed out."
She smiled. "More than about three and you'll have him out numbered. I've worked to keep the organization small. The less there are, the less there are to try to betray me."
"Good idea, in your case. I'd do it that way too. But Reanna deals in companies that build Star Destroyers, and have factories the size of small cities. She needs a much larger organization."
She nodded. "My organization hasn't gotten that large yet," she said wryly.
"As it was explained to me," Polly continued, "and I'm not sure I understand even half of it, Reanna's real job to run the entire sector economy. Your firm was just meant to make money."
"How's the back?"
"There," she said with a weary smile. "It aches more than anything else."
"I'm afraid you'll just have to suffer though that." Polly said.
She grimaced. "I lived through it the first time, and believe me that hurt a whole lot worse than this."
"I guess so." Polly agreed. "Sandy and is a very good doctor, and has an excellent medical staff, and there is nothing medical that money can buy that she can't get. The first time had to be worse."
Mikala looked back out the window, her face expressionless. "It was. I still don't really remember how I got to the shipyards. I remember crawling into a self-sealing crate and then--" she shook her head. "I heard some kind of rattling noise when I woke up and it took me a while to realize that was the ships hyperdrive. That's when I realized I was trapped in the crate. A couple of the crew found me a couple days later. They told me later they thought I was dead. At that point, I had wished I was."
"You're first time in space?" Polly asked.
"Bad way to do it." Polly said. "I was luckier. I was on you father's yacht, and not as a stowaway."
"You're trip was much nicer. I don't remember much of mine. They kept me pretty drugged up on Perigrin to keep me quiet so the Captain wouldn't fine me. He didn't like stowaways. Anyways, I they dumped me in an orphanage on Coruscant. I stayed there just long enough to get off the Perigin and healed up and then I ran away and I've been on my own ever since."
"I know about being on your own."
"I never realized how lonely it was until I got here," she said softly.
"Neither did I. Probably just as well." Polly agreed.
Mikala picked at the upholstery on the arm of the chair she was sitting in. "I was content with that life. I don't think I could be any more."
"Nor could I."
Mikala smiled at her abruptly. "Aren't we a pair? Two Ord Mandell street kids in this fairy tale manor pretending we belong."
"Yes we are." Polly answered. "We are quite a pair. And we will never truly belong. But I intend to earn the trust your father has given me. His enemies are my enemies."
Mikala nodded. "We can pretend we belong," she said a bit wistfully. "I've never belonged anywhere. That's a feeling I'd like to least pretend to understand."
"It grows on you. Jan is in the same boat we are." Polly observed.
She nodded, feeling her eyes still with unshed tears. Sith, what was wrong with her? Control use to be so much easier.
Mikala sniffed and glanced over at the chrono. She swore softly. "I was supposed to be doing physical therapy fifteen minutes ago. It's a wonder they haven't sent out a search party for me yet."
"Sandy must be busy, or she'd have found you by now."
Mikala struggled to get out of the chair and then groaned in frustration. "Can you help me?" she asked finally.
Polly held out her hand.
Mikala took it and Polly help her to her feet. Mikala stood there a moment and then let go. "Thank you," she said a bit embarrassed. She straightened her tunic. "I should head back upstairs." She cocked her head a bit. "It was nice talking with you."
"Any time." Polly answered.
Mikala nodded and headed back to the elevator.
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